Intro

This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. I am slowly blogging through Steele's Answers, posting each Q & A in the order in which they appear (whether I personally agree with the answer or not). But, these posts come from several other sources, as well. I often post particularly eloquent passages from Dr. Steele's other writings. Occasionally I post "guest blogs" from other holiness writers.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Of Water and the Spirit

QUESTION: Does John 3:5 refer to water baptism: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God"?

ANSWER: It is figurative of the initial purification of regeneration, as the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire is figurative of the perfect cleansing in the entire sanctification of the believer. Fire is a more thorough purgative than water.

Steele's Answers pp. 236, 237.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Perfected Holiness is a Progressive State

QUESTION: Can you give me light upon the following: I have read of and heard persons state that they received the blessing after making the consecration, and later they received the Blesser. Is it possible to have the blessing of a clean heart and not also have the Blesser who gives the clean heart?

ANSWER: The nominal experience of love made perfect is the incoming of the Comforter extinguishing the self-life, as light entering a room instantly banishes darkness. But others testify of a short interval between the conscious cleansing and the conscious fullness of the Spirit. It is also true that perfected holiness is a progressive state in which Christ manifests himself more and more wonderfully to the persevering believer whose love is attested by constant obedience. As they err who say; "I got it all when I was regenerated," so do they err  who say, "I got all that God has to give when I was wholly sanctified." The reader of the original of John 17:3 will note that eternal life lies not so much in the possession of a completed knowledge of Christ, gained once for all, as in a perpetually increasing apprehension of him: "and this is life eternal that they should be knowing (present tense denoting continuity) Thee, the only true God and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ." I expect to be eternally striving after a growing knowledge of the Father through the Son. My happiness will consist in love ever increasing promoted by a gainful striving which will know no end. Don't be afraid you will exhaust God:

Immortal Love forever full,
Forever flowing free,
Forever shared, forever whole,
A never ebbing sea. — Whittier.

Steele's Answers pp. 235, 236.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is It Wrong to Raise Mules?

QUESTION: Is it wrong to raise mules in the light of Lev. 19:19, "Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed; neither shall a garment mingled with linen and woolen come upon thee"?

ANSWER: In the Old Testament the law embraces not only moral actions, such as are right or wrong as discoverable by conscience, or revealed in the Decalogue, but also acts violating the code of ceremonial purity, and acts forbidden by the Judicial law which relates solely to the Jewish nation. These three kinds of laws are intermingled in the Pentateuch. The Jew regards all of them as morally obligatory. Hence he regards the breeding of mules as sinful because it is forbidden by the ceremonial law, which the Christian is under no obligation to keep, because Christ abrogated it in Mark 7:19, "This he said making all meats clean," R. V. The Jewish farmer deems it wicked to put a pumpkin seed in a hill of corn, or to wear a linsey woolsey garment, or one made of cotton and wool, sometimes called crugget, a comfortable clothing within reach of the poor. The highest magnifying glass fails to find any moral element in Lev. 19:19. Hence the mule is not an outlaw, nor is his breeder a sinner.

Steele's Answers pp. 234, 235.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Forbidden Fruit

QUESTION: What was the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden?

ANSWER: The kind is unknown. It is described as good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise. It afforded an occasion for the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life, the three forms of moral evil.

Steele's Answers p. 234.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Anger

QUESTION: Can a father having a hot temper get rid of it entirely when entirely sanctified?

ANSWER: Yes. He can be rid of all sinful anger. There ls such a thing as righteous indignation.

Steele's Answers p. 234.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mormons & Polygamy

QUESTION: Do the Mormons still practice polygamy?

ANSWER: Their president has five wives and the children are increasing in number. They profess to have renounced polygamy. Being a State they elect their own civil officers, so that they can manage their domestic relations to suit themselves, inflicting slight punishment for polygamy, or none at all. The Federal government cannot now reach this evil.

Steele's Answers pp. 233, 234.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Error of Sacramentalism

Another error obstructive of the spiritual life of all the so-called sacramentarian churches — more than half of Christendom — consists in a perversion of the meaning of Christ's words to Nicodemus, "born of water and the Spirit." Those who magnify the sacraments as saving ordinances, and some who do not teach baptismal regeneration, teach that the words "born of water" refer to water baptism. But others including the writer, insist that these words have no reference to that ordinance which was not made obligatory upon believers until after Christ's resurrection, years after his dialogue with Nicodemus. The identification of water baptism with the new birth has wrought untold harm to myriads of souls, deluding them with a shadow of the requisite for salvation instead of the substance, the impartation of spiritual life and initial sanctification symbolized by water. We sympathize with Weisse, though we cannot use his strong language, that to make regeneration depend upon baptism by water "is little better than blasphemy." We believe with Neander, Calvin, Grotius and other scholars, that Christ here intends the symbolic import of water, and not water itself, as an agent of cleansing, according to an ancient figure which expressed one idea by two nouns connected by "and" instead of a noun and an adjective, as, "we drink from cups and gold" for golden cups. Thus, "ye must be born of water and the Spirit" for the purifying Spirit. Desiring to give his distinguished hearer a clear idea of the change which the Spirit must work in the natural heart, he adds the idea of initial cleansing by using the word "water."

In like manner a more thorough purification is expressed by the words of John the Baptist descriptive of Christ, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," an agent of cleansing far more effective than water in the purification of earthen and metallic utensils. We cannot here, as some do, read and as meaning or, "with the Ghost or fire," meaning all who do not receive the Holy Spirit's baptism must be baptized with hell fire. We prefer the exegesis of Bishop Hopkins,

those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit are, as it were, plunged into the heavenly flame, whose searching energy devours all their dross, tin and base alloy.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 14.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Error of the Doctrine of the Two Natures

There prevails in certain religious circles the doctrine that in the new birth a new nature is created, while the old nature, or old man, continues till physical death extinguishes his life. It is said that the old nature is nailed to the cross, but he does not die so long as the human spirit acts through a material organism. Denial of the possibility of entire sanctification in the present life is an obvious inference. Another outcome of this error is that depravity is necessary, and that it is beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit in the application of the blood of Christ which cleanses from all sin. Hence the notion of two natures existing in every Christian, however consecrated, so long as he is in the body, the one a new creation and therefore sinless, and the other sinful and beyond all hope of change for the better, is exceedingly mischievous, palliating and excusing evil propensities. When we speak of the Holy Spirit as the indwelling Sanctifier we will examine the alleged scriptural proofs of this doctrine. We insist that the work of the Spirit in the new creation of the penitent believer in Christ is not the creation of new faculties, but the rectification of those already existing, weakened and marred by sin. He has no need of a new reason for even after the fall, reason in man grasps the same self-evident truths that exist in God, In fact, the modern teaching of philosophy is that truths of intuition are the activity of God immanent in the soul of man. His sensibilities, both natural and moral, have been damaged by the fall of Adam, and his will has become enslaved to his perverted affections and depraved desires. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to lift this yoke of bondage and to bring the newborn soul into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. He whom Christ Jesus makes free is free indeed. It is the slave that is emancipated and not a new being just created. Such a being would need no act of emancipation. It is the office of the Spirit to give the will the gracious ability to make holy choices, and to clarify the moral sense or conscience so that its decisions will all harmonize with ethical axioms or immutable morality. The "new creature" spoken of by Paul is a figure of speech for the vivid presentation of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the renewal of a soul badly shattered by sin. Conscience is restored to full activity both in its power to discern and its power to approve or to condemn. The human spirit may well be compared to a skylight in the dome of his being through which he was designed to have a vision of spiritual realities. But sin has darkened the windows and intercepted the heavenly vision. The remedy is not in the demolition of the old skylight and the setting of a new one, but in the thorough cleansing of the original window by One who by taking up His abode in that dome can always keep it transparent by His purifying presence. The process seems to be first to cause the law of God to shine into conscience, the light of forgiveness, then the light of purity, "having no more conscience of sin."

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 14.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Distinct and Decisive Action of the Holy Spirit

It is noted by an eminent expositor "that in the New Testament we never read expressly and unmistakably of sanctification as a gradual process." This is said in view of the almost universal use of the aorist tense of the verbs to sanctify and to cleanse.

To this distinct and decisive action of the Holy Spirit in the extinction of proneness to sin, bringing the believer into the land of rest, in marvelous contrast with His previous wilderness experience, after His regeneration, there are too many intelligent and trustworthy witnesses to be lightly passed by as of no account. They assure us that they were truly converted and received the direct witness of the Spirit to their adoption; that they did not backslide, but grew in grace; that they were not conscious of living in willful violation of any known law of God, and that they could testify that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. But they solemnly aver that through all their regenerate life, before receiving Christ for their entire sanctification, they were conscious of a strong inward enemy whom they were striving to bind and cast out but always failed; that by the study of the Scriptures they found that this rebel within was called "the old man," whom theologians style "original sin;" that after reading or hearing the testimony of those entirely consecrated souls who had through specific faith and importunate prayer found complete deliverance, they sought for this distinctive work of the Holy Ghost, and at an ever-memorable date they emerged into a blissful consciousness of inward purity and profound peace far beyond all former experiences. This victory many have attested decades and scores of years. Dr. Asa Mahan, whose temper in his youth was so ungovernable that his father predicted that in a fit of anger he would kill some one and expiate his crime on the scaffold, and whose irascibility in the early years of his Christian ministry was the cause of untold grief, testifies to a change wrought by the Holy Spirit so great as to make the last forty years of life years undisturbed by one gust of irritability, though he often met with insults and other occasions to call it forth if it had been slumbering within. The Sanctifier had cast out this demon and so adorned the place of his former abode with the fruits of the Spirit and so filled it with His own permanent fulness that he could not return though he may have "taken with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself." The Lord be praised! There is a power which not only cleanses but also keeps. It is to be noted that the witnesses to whom we refer agree in testifying that this entire sanctification was subsequent to regeneration, and that it was accomplished by the Spirit in an instant, and not by the processes of growth.

This negative work of the Spirit in the eradication of inherited proneness to sin is followed by an illimitable development of all the Christian graces. One may reach the point where sin is all destroyed and love become perfect, i. e., pure and unmixed, and yet his power of moral discernment and his mental enlargement be capable of increase through time and through eternity. His spiritual development will be commensurate.

    •    Perfection in degree of love is never to be attained.
    •    Perfection in kind is the gift of the Holy Ghost to the believer now.

— edited from The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 14.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fellow-Workers in Sanctification

In sanctification "we are God's fellow-workers" (I Cor. iii. 9, Revised Version). Hence the momentous import of the exhortation of Paul, "Carry out with fear and trembling your own salvation. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work for. his good pleasure."4 The occasion for fear and trembling arises from the fact that God's work in me may fail to reach perfection because of my failure to work perfectly with Him. It is indeed a solemn and awful thing to be fellow-workers with the holy God in the production of the most valuable thing in the universe, a holy character. In the work of purifying ourselves while God is refining us how careful should we be lest through lack of faith in His exceedingly great and precious promises we should mar the work of His Spirit in perfectly conforming us to the image of His Son. As a slight motion may spoil the image which the king of day is imprinting on the prepared plate, so a little self-indulgence or heedlessness or wavering of faith may blur the image of Christ which the Spirit is creating in me. I am responsible not only for all that I can do towards completed holiness, which is perfect consecration, but I am also responsible for all that the Holy Ghost can do with my co-operation.

The work of the Holy Spirit in the progressive sanctification of the newborn soul is indirect: in opening the heart to receive the truth, the instrument of purification; in giving vigor to the spiritual life; in strengthening the will to resist temptation, and in diminishing the power of evil habits. It is repressive of depravity rather than totally destructive.

The entire eradication of the propensity to sin is by the direct and instantaneous act of the Holy Spirit responsive to a special act of faith in Christ claiming the full heritage of the believer.

[J. A. Beet remarks:]

When we learn that God claims us for His own, and when, after fruitless personal efforts to render Him the devotion He requires, we learn for the first time that God will work in us by the agency of His Spirit and by actual spiritual contact with Christ the devotion He requires, and when we venture to believe, . . . we find by happy experience that according to our faith it is done to us. The experience thus gained becomes an era in our spiritual life. We feel that we are then holy in a sense unknown to us before.

The Gospel of the Comforter Chapter 14.